Tottenham Women 1 Reading Women 1
Alex Morgan finally made it onto a Women’s Super League pitch, but for all the talk of foreign attacking flair, it was two British full-backs who provided the defining moments at The Hive.
Emma Mitchell and Ashleigh Neville do not usually cry out for post-match analysis, yet somehow they typified a contest that was so intense, both sets of players slumped to the turf at the final whistle.
Even the 69th-minute introduction of double World Cup winner Morgan for her belated Tottenham debut could not shift the emphasis from industry to inspiration.
Reading left-back Mitchell stood out first, rampaging on an overlapping run to swing over a delicious 12th-minute cross that was headed home by Brooke Chaplen.
Enter Neville and her intelligence to end a game of head tennis in the Reading area by cleverly looping a back-header over visiting keeper Grace Moloney.
The second half belonged to Morgan, six months on from giving birth. Or rather as much fanfare as there can be at a League Two stadium with no fans during lockdown.
She was unable to influence matters, but not once was she given anything other than a hopeful punt to chase.
That will have to change if Tottenham are to be able to persuade her to return once she leaves in January to try and gain a place in the Team USA squad for the delayed Tokyo Olympics.
Tottenham joint-coach Juan Amoros said: “Of course I hope she comes back to us. I want to have her in my team for ever.
“She is one of the best professionals and people I have ever coached. She helps the other forwards, she helps the whole club. Nothing is given to her. She works hard. It’s all positive.
“We needed to be very patient with her. From giving birth, it’s a very difficult re-adaptation of the body.
“Alex hasn’t played for a very long time, but she did everything that we could ask of her when she came on. We are trying every day to make sure that she is happy and I think she is.
“It shows the development of the club, who we are and who we want to be that we can bring who I think is the best No 9 in women’s football for the past 10 years to the club.”
Reading might have clinched victory on two separate occasions as the match entered injury time, but first Lily Woodham shot straight at Rebecca Spencer before Jess Fishlock dallied too long and tried to pass instead of shooting with the Tottenham goal at her mercy.
Reading coach Kelly Chambers said: “The disappointing thing is that we had two golden opportunities right at the end and didn’t take them.
“I didn’t notice that Alex Morgan had come on at first, but it’s nice to see her finally on the pitch. It’s going to raise the profile of this league.”
The draw leaves Reading in almost splendid isolation in mid-table, while Tottenham are among the WSL relegation stragglers.
They may need to find a way to accelerate Morgan’s return to match sharpness in order to climb away from the lower reaches before she departs.
She will definitely not want to re-join a club headed for relegation.